As reported earlier, one of the immediate consequences of the Trump immigration executive order – and one which has so far gone largely unchallenged – has been a crackdown against illegal immigrants residing in the US. This promptly led Mexico’s Foreign Ministry to say on Thursday it has intensified efforts to protect Mexican migrants, “foreseeing the hardening of measures by immigration authorities in the U.S., as well as possible constitutional violations during raids or in due process.”
We also noted that according to the WSJ, influential Mexicans are pushing “an aggressive and perhaps risky strategy to fight a likely increase in deportations of their undocumented compatriots in the U.S.: jam U.S. immigration courts in hopes of causing the already overburdened system to break down.” The proposal calls for ad campaigns advising migrants in the U.S. to take their cases to court and fight deportation if detained. “The backlog in the immigration system is tremendous,” said former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. The idea is to double or triple the backlog, “until [U.S. President Donald] Trump desists in this stupid idea,” he added.
For now, however, these efforts to, well, trump Trump’s anti-illegal alien directive have failed to generate traction, and according to Reuters, federal immigration agents arrested hundreds of undocumented immigrants in at least four states this week in what officials on Friday called routine “enforcement actions.” The enforcement actions took place in Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and surrounding areas, said David Marin, director of enforcement and removal for the Los Angeles field office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Marin called the five-day operation an “enforcement surge.”
While the agency did not release a total number of detainees, the Atlanta office alone, which covers three states, arrested 200 people, Bryan Cox, a spokesman for the office, said. An additional 161 arrests were made the Los Angeles area in a region that included seven highly populated counties, Marin also said that of the people arrested in Southern California, only 10 did not have criminal records, and of those, five had prior deportation orders.
“The rash of these recent reports about ICE checkpoints and random sweeps, that’s all false and that’s dangerous and irresponsible,” Marin said. “Reports like that create a panic.” He described the arrests as largely routine.
Others agree. Michael Kagan, a professor of immigration law at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, said immigration advocates are concerned that the arrests could signal the beginning of more aggressive enforcement and increased deportations under Trump. “It sounds as if the majority are people who would have been priorities under Obama as well,” Kagan said in a telephone interview.
“But the others may indicate the first edge of a new wave of arrests and deportations.”
Which likely explains why there is suddenly a palpable sense a panic among Hispanic communities, as The Hill reports.
One of the first cases to receive national attention, the deportation of Arizona resident Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, has put undocumented and mixed status communities on edge. “It’s fair to say we’re all extremely troubled by the deportation action we saw take place yesterday in Arizona,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. “The first deportation [after] his executive order is of a working mom with two U.S. kids,” she added.
And yet, what Trump is doing is precisely what he had promised to do. On the campaign trail, Trump initially promised to enact a deportation force to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants, starting with dangerous criminals. “They’re going to be out of here so fast, your head will spin,” Trump told Fox News in August. “As far as the rest, we’re going to go through the process, like they are now — perhaps with a lot more energy.” As president-elect, Trump said his government would seek out “three or four million” dangerous criminals immigrants for deportation.
Many Hispanic advocates feel that the Garcia de Rayos case shows the Trump administration will aggressively pursue all undocumented immigrants. “This reaffirms that when the Trump administration said they would go after criminals, they really meant everybody,” Murguia said.
The perception that Trump is shifting back to his early campaign proposals has shaken many Hispanics, including many who are legally in the country, the Hill noted.
“The uncertainty and the confusion is prevalent with undocumented, legal residents and also citizens,” said Telemundo anchorman José Diaz-Balart. “There are millions of mixed status families in the United States of America.” And community organizers admit they have few tools to quell the trepidation.
NCLR is one of many organizations that has set up a legal defense structure and started programs to inform immigrants of their rights, but under current law, an undocumented immigrant who comes in contact with federal enforcement officers has relatively few options. “We want people to stay calm and we want to give them assurances but we can’t give them assurances,” Murguía said.
Diaz-Balart, the anchor for Noticieros Telemundo, the network’s nightly news program, is hosting a town hall event Sunday for his viewers to better understand the administration’s immigration actions. “[Immigrants are] now asking, ‘how is this going to have an impact on me?’” said Diaz-Balart.
“It’s a town hall that is going to be dealing with the questions that we hear over and over and over again from the people that we serve,” he said. “It’s not about telling people what they want to hear, it’s about making sure the people are informed about things.”
In the first days of the Trump administration, immigration has emerged as the most important target for the president, seemingly of greater importance than repealing Obamacare or cutting taxes. Through his executive orders, Trump has gone after so-called “sanctuary cities” that restrict the degree to which their law enforcement agents collaborate with federal immigration enforcement. He has also redefined who could be labeled a “criminal alien.” That redefinition greatly expanded the number of undocumented immigrants liable to be targeted for removal, beyond the “three or four million” that Trump had mentioned.
José Magaña-Salgado, an attorney at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, cited a study that said as many as 8 million people could now be targeted for deportation. Under Trump’s order, the definition of criminality was expanded to include misdemeanors like illicitly crossing the border. It also expanded the definitions for immigrants to be considered priorities for deportation. Foreigners who have “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense” are priorities, even before conviction. It also includes those who have committed “fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency,” a category that includes using fake Social Security numbers to work.
To be sure, lacking a legal challenge for the time being, Hispanics are refuting the logic of Trump’s order.
While Trump campaigned on the prospect of removing dangerous criminals, Magaña-Salgado said the very structure of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would provide an incentive for indiscriminate enforcement. “The general philosophy of ICE agents and CBP agents, they view their job as expelling as many people from the country as possible,” said Magaña-Salgado. “It benefits them to have high deportation numbers because they can justify their budget, they can justify their mission,” he added. And cases like Garcia de Rayos provide an easy target for federal agents.
Garcia de Rayos was apprehended during a yearly inspection at her local ICE headquarters, in which she voluntarily presented herself keeping with orders given to her when she was originally apprehended. As a low-risk offender — Garcia de Rayos was convicted of using a fake Social Security Number to work — she was not on the Obama administration’s deportation priority list despite have been slated for deportation by an immigration judge.
She was, however, very much likely an eligible Democrat voter, which while undiscussed is the bedrock behind Trump’s aggressive pursuit of undocumented illegal immigrants in the US.
Beyond the detention of Garcia de Rayos, ICE conducted large raids this week on homes and workplaces that further alarmed Hispanic communities. Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Immigration Law Center, said agents denied access to immigration lawyers after one such raid in Los Angeles that rounded up about 100 people. “Immigration attorneys flocked to the scene,” Tumlin said. “They were shut out.” “[It’s] absolutely unacceptable and potentially unlawful,” she added.
Similar cases to Garcia de Rayos could also attract the attention of federal enforcement officers because of the shortage of immigration judges to prosecute cases. People who have already been slated for deportation by a judge can be removed without further due process. The lack of immigration judges is “certainly going to be a constraint,” said Magaña-Salgado.
But agents can use expedited removal procedures, curbed under the Obama administration but not taken off the books, to get detainees to accept a quick deportation over a lengthy wait for an immigration judge, in many cases while incarcerated.
“They’re going to use that tool to take people out of the court system and due process,” Magaña-Salgado said. It will also hinder the previously discussed attempt by influential Mexicans to “jam US courts” by increasing the number of deportation cases. Ultimately, that strategy may dramatically backfire if the law were to be further streamlined.
Meanwhile, Hispanic activists warn that going after easy targets can damage communities in several ways.
People who would otherwise be economically active could go into hiding, trust in law enforcement agencies could be diminished, and dangerous criminals could more easily slip through the cracks as federal agents pursue non-dangerous undocumented immigrants.
“People want to comply with the enforcement agencies,” Murguia said. “They’re supposed to report in with these check ins; if they see they’re going to put themselves at risk, it’s a very difficult situation.”
“These are gut wrenching, heart-breaking stories,” she added. “In a civilized society, we can’t find a better way to deal with these issues?”
Well, Obama tried, and failed. Which is why “civilized” American society is now where it is, and reflecting the will of the majority.